Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Commentary- Let's Get Metrical


Let’s Get Metrical
by Rob Cottignies

You’ve probably heard of a meter. You’ve hopefully strode several meters at a time. You’re definitely at least a meter tall. But what is a meter? How long is it? And what does it want from us?
The truth is a meter doesn’t want anything from us. It is, after all, a unit of length, incapable of want or need. Also, it is slightly more than 39 inches. What we want from a meter is for it to be more easily understood. If you speak with almost anyone in the world, that person will likely refer to meters. This is because all but three countries use the Metric system. The Imperial system (Imperial > Metric, right?) is used by Americans and those wily folks in Myanmar, which used to be called Burma until its ruling Junta changed the country’s name. It’s in Asia, so you don’t have to look it up. The Republic of Liberia, which is probably located somewhere, uses a completely different system. I have no idea what it is but I’m guessing it’s complicated and quite awful. Let’s just agree to not go there, alright? Alright.
Quoting one of the worst arguments I’ve ever read, “From an [sic] European point of view, the U.S. unit system seems quite complicated and impractical. The difficulty comes mainly from the fact that larger units seem to be an arbitrary multiple of the next smaller unit. For example, 3 feet equal to 1 yard, 1 foot equals to 12 inches, so 1 yard equals to 36 inches.” So the complication comes from the idea that it’s simple and easy to figure out? Does it make too much sense?
My main problem with the Metric system is the leap it takes between a small amount and the next-higher. A centimeter is less than half of an inch long. Above that is the huge-by-comparison meter. How do you not have feet!? I mean, so easy. And how lovely is an inch? There’s even a worm perfectly formed for this unit of measure. Of course there are also centipedes and millipedes whose names make sense (if you know Latin) but their leg amounts aren’t so accurate.
And a gram!? Gram was a mythical sword that was used to slay the equally-mythical dragon Fafnir. Are all people who use the Metric system dragonslayers? Possibly, but what does that have to do with a dopey little unit of weight? I don’t know. And ‘Kilogram’ was shortened to ‘Kilo’ and is often used in the drug trade. Are all people who use the Metric system drug addicts? Probably. And this ‘tonne’… Does adding two letters make two-thousand pounds more fierce? What it does do is add 205 pounds, so I guess it is fiercer. But 2,000 is such a nice number AND it’s evenly divisible by ten, which Metric people love to claim is better.
What am I talking about? Sometimes my thoughts run away without warning.
Anyway, let’s discuss temperature. While Celsius isn’t exactly Metric, Metric countries use Celsius. Sometimes they call it Centigrade. Sometimes they also sip tea and watch Cricket.
The formula to get a degree Celsius into Fahrenheit (a German name loosely meaning Drivingness) is simple: C x 9 / 5 + 32 = F. Got it? Good. No, it’s easier than that. For low numbers, such as degrees, double the number and add 30. It won’t be exact but it’ll be close. For example, 10°C doubled is 20, plus 30 makes 50°F. Easy! To prove how nice that is, I’ll use the original equation. 10°C times 9 is 90; divided by 5 is 18; plus 32 makes 50°F! So this one is accurate but it’s usually off by a degree or two. Wunderbar!
Let’s not even go into how little sense liters (or litres) make. Pour me a pint.
Americans have already adopted part of the Metric system by running “5Ks”. How obnoxious. Three miles weren’t good enough, huh? So now there’s an extra tenth of a mile thrown in for no reason other than enabling us to pretend we’re like the rest of the world.
And on that note, I believe the USA should adopt the Metric system. Sure, it’ll take the South centuries to figure it out, but they might and hopefully will rise again to secede so they can worry about it on their own. It only seems fair that we take on Metricosity. I mean, the rest of the world speaks English, so it’s the least we could do.
And for the folks in Myanmar, well, when in Myanmar…

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